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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Russian Assault Takes New Focus In Ukraine; The European Security Order; Interview With Raj Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 24, 2022 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria, coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA: Today on the program, Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, what comes next? First I talk to General Mark Hertling about Russia's new eastern offensive and Ukraine's efforts to counter it. Then President Zelenskyy announces a high-level visit of the American secretaries of state and defense to Kyiv today. David Miliband, Kishore Mahbubani, and Anne-Marie Slaughter will join me to talk about aid to Ukraine, sanctions, the refugee crisis and more.

And as another Earth Day passes, we will bring you a big idea about how to wean countries like China and India off coal.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." the next phase in the war in Ukraine is now apparent. Over the next few weeks and months, Russian forces will try to expand control of their occupied territories in eastern Ukraine and dig in. The Ukrainian army and people will resist fiercely and low-grade battles will likely persist in these areas, as they have in Donbas since 2014. That means the only way out of this conflict is to put enough pressure on Russia to force it to the negotiating table and seek sanctions relief in exchange for a peace deal.

To achieve this, the coalition against it needs the sustaining power to maintain and even ratchet up sanctions and embargoes against Moscow. And that is only conceivable in a scenario in which energy prices come down from their current highs. If oil prices remain over $100 a barrel, and they could easily go much higher, Europe will soon enter a recession and the entire global economy will see a drop-off of growth, and political backlash against the sanctions.

This would almost certainly mean the collapse of the coalition against Russia as countries would search for ways to gain cheaper energy. That is surely Vladimir Putin's hope. The only plausible path to keep the pressure on Russia while not crippling the global economy is to get oil prices down and the only sustainable way to do this is to get the world's largest swing producer, Saudi Arabia, as well as other Gulf states such as the UAE and Kuwait, to increase production of oil.

American oil production is expanding as fast as it can. There are other paths worth trying such as easing the embargo on Venezuela and returning to the Iran nuclear deal. But the Gulf States can easily expand production by millions of barrels a day and keep those supplies flowing well into the future. Yet, despite several entreaties by the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have refused to significantly increase production.

And that brings us to the central issue, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. In the past Biden has called Saudi Arabia a pariah. He has yet to hold a formal meeting with bin Salman. In turn, MBS, as he's often called, has refused American request to increase oil productions and has moved to strengthen his relations with Russia and China.

In a soon-to-be published Council on Foreign Relations special report, Stephen Cook and Martin Indyk proposed a grand bargain in which the U.S. would improve relations with MBS and make more specific pledges to protect Saudi Arabia in a return for a series of Saudi moves from ending the war in Yemen, to recognizing Israel, to taking more explicit responsibility for the murder of journalist and "Washington Post" contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

It is an idea worth taking seriously and expanding to include the UAE, other Gulf States and Egypt. Despite their surface disagreements with Washington, all these countries want more solid American guarantees regarding their security in an increasingly unstable Middle East.

The Saudis were distressed that after the 2019 drone attacks on their oil facilities by Iranian backed Houthis in Yemen, the Trump administration did practically nothing to retaliate. The UAE faced a similar attack in January and was likewise distressed that the Biden administration was not more active in responding.


There is a way for Washington to forge a new security umbrella in the region that includes Israel, Egypt and the Gulf States. It would stabilize the security environment, foreclose the prospects of a nuclear arms race in the region and provide access to energy for the industrialized world. But that path would have to include making up with Mohammad bin Salman.

I don't make this argument lightly. Jamal Khashoggi was my friend. In fact, when I visited Saudi Arabia in 2004, he was my companion and guide. I miss him dearly, even now. But the fact of the matter is MBS is likely to rule Saudi Arabia for the next 50 years. He is an absolute ruler like all his predecessors but within the country, he is viewed as a modernizer and is extremely popular with Saudi youth for curtailing the power of the religious beliefs, opening up the country to entertainment and tourism and giving women greater freedoms.

Most of those who advocate continuing the ostracism of MBS do not explain when or how it will ever end, leaving U.S.-Saudi relations in a permanently frozen dysfunctional state. International relations are often about choosing strategy over

ideology. During the Cold War, Washington made common cause with Mao's China among many unsavory regimes to put pressure on the Soviet Union. If Washington wants to prevail in this new Cold War with Russia, it needs to be similarly strategic in its outlook.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Today marks 60 days of Putin's war in Ukraine. This week Russia began an offensive in the Donbas region and the military revealed its goal was to assert full control over the south of the country, but the Ukrainian resistance is strong. They remain in control of certain key cities and President Zelenskyy expressed confidence that Ukraine would defeat Russian forces now that his pleas for arms have finally been answered.

I wanted to get an assessment of this new Russian offensive and off Ukraine's ability to counter it. I'm joined by CNN military analyst, General Mark Hertling.

General, the Russians have put an enormous amount of firepower and manpower, and you can see it in the ravaging of a town like Mariupol. Is Russia going to prevail because of that just a sheer force of that Russian firepower?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You know, Fareed, the Russian artillery is in great quantity and quantity has a quality all of its own. But I believe based on what they're attempting to do in this new phase of the operation, that Ukraine is prepared to conduct counter artillery fires as well as the maneuver forces to counter any activity along three very distinct axis of advances that Russia has actually compressed their operations into.

You know, you're talking about free zones of operation from Kharkiv southeast into the Donbas, from north and east of Zaporizhzhia into the Donetsk Oblast, and in the Kherson-Mykolaiv access along the Black Sea. They're attempting -- the Russians are attempting the tie down the reserves of the joint force along the several axis and at the same time they're going to continue this long-range harassing missile fire and rocket fire into some key major cities, which they have no intent on taking right now.

It's just to deflect the attention of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian military to help save their civilian population.

ZAKARIA: How should we think about Mariupol, which seems to be -- I mean, the city seems completely destroyed? What is the -- you know, can Ukraine hold out?

HERTLING: Well, they've done an unbelievable job in terms of the forces that are in the city holding out against three different axis of advance by Russian forces. It has been, from a military perspective, from my observations, a phenomenal seize operation by the Russians, but they have failed just because of the will of the Ukrainian fighters that are inside that plant. Those fighters, those Ukrainians, have held up a large amount of

Russian forces in an area that both sides need. That town of Mariupol, that once very large port city, has roads, railroads and in fact rivers going in different directions and it's a key logistics hub. And as we get into this phase of the fight, logistics will be the most important aspect of this attrition warfare.


ZAKARIA: Mark, you told me privately that there was a distinction between Ukrainian effort to defeat the Russian army versus destroy the Russian army. We have about a minute. Can you just briefly explain that vital distinction?

HERTLING: Yes, both of those terms have doctrinal definitions in the military, Fareed. Defeat means that -- defeat takes away the ability of a force to continue their operation. They can no longer either supply themselves, man their force, move and fire. Destroy means that they can no longer contribute to any kind of fight, even from a stationary position, that the force is so depleted and destroyed, that it no longer poses a threat to their enemy.

So those are the things I will be looking for and we saw a defeat of the Russian forces in the northern sector. What I'm seeing the potential for is Ukraine to destroy the remaining forces of the Russian army with the kind of artillery force. But there's a danger in that, too. It will put Mr. Putin on the true horns of a dilemma if he no longer has a security force to execute his desires and his strategic objectives.

ZAKARIA: I assume you mean that he can then escalate with missiles and such.

Mark Hertling, pleasure to have you on.

HERTLING: Pleasure, Fareed. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the West is as engaged as it's ever been in the war in Ukraine. But what about the rest of the world? I'll discuss with an all-star panel when we come back.



ZAKARIA: The West arms to Ukraine have undoubtedly boosted the country's defense but what is the West's long game to secure peace in Ukraine and in Europe? What should it be?

Joining me now, David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, former foreign minister of Britain, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the CEO of New America, and Kishore Mahbubani, a distinguished fellow at the National University of Singapore and longtime former diplomat.

Ann-Marie, what should the West's long game be here? ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, CEO, NEW AMERICA: So the first part of that game

has to be simply to stop the fighting. We're going to see the complete destruction of eastern and southern Ukraine. And if you look at what happened after 2014 when they took over part of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, it can just go forever, the fighting. So we have to stop the fighting.

Second, however, we actually need a geopolitical configuration that is not Russia and China, Europe and the United States, and the rest of the world. And if you look at what happened with the human rights vote, you saw India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia all abstained. That is not a good geopolitical configuration.

So the United States actually wants not to isolate Russia and push it closer to China for the long term. And then longest of all, the United States needs to think about what is a European security architecture that makes Europe actually whole and free and safe? I don't think we get there with Putin in power. But Putin's not going to be in power forever and we actually have to think about the next couple of decades where we can protect Ukraine but Russia is once again integrated into Europe.

ZAKARIA: But he's in his late 60s, David Miliband. I mean, he's not going anywhere any time soon and he's not giving up it seems like any time soon.

DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Yes, I think there's one overriding question which is whether or not the dispensation after 2014 with Crimea under effective Russian control, Donbass actually, whether that holds, whether Russia succeeds in claiming more territory in the eastern south or whether it's pushed back.

Now in thinking about that, there's a couple of important things. One, the lesson of the last 30 years to me or one of the lessons has been an underestimation of the agency of the Ukrainians themselves. They are center stage in this and the first choice is for them, not for the West. If they want to fight for their country, that's their choice.

Secondly, I do think we have to understand that at stake here is at one hand the world of anarchy because that is what is being unleashed in Mariupol and elsewhere, versus some kind of rules, and some kind of order, and that's why the framing that I think the West should be adopting is not democracy versus autocracy but rules versus anarchy. I think that's a really fundamental part of this.

Thirdly, I think Anne-Marie is absolutely right to herald or to point out that while the West is more united than it was before, the world is equally divided and the votes that she's referred to at the U.N. should be fundamental. I'm sure Kishore will come in on this. But from my point of view, the strategy has to be about more than a Europe whole and free, it has to be a world that has some rules to govern the way in which it's run.

ZAKARIA: Kishore, let's get to precisely this issue, why is it that, you know, when people think about democracy versus autocracy, the problem with that formulation, as David very well put it, is some of the world's largest democracies are at best sitting on the fence? India, Indonesia, Brazil, even Mexico. What do you think is going on from your perspective?

KISHORE MAHBUBANI, FORMER SENIOR SINGAPORE DIPLOMAT: Well, I think, as you know, when Russia invaded Ukraine, most of the world was horrified. It was terrible. And there was a great global consensus against it. But now I share the concerns of Anne-Marie and David that clearly the West, as you know, represents 12 percent of the world's population, 88 percent lives outside the West.


And if the perception of the 88 percent has shifted in the last three months at all, and what they see now is on the one hand, and I agree with David, that the legal moral dimension here that Russia is wrong but the rest of the world can also see that this is a geopolitical game where the West is trying to weaken Russia and not really searching for peace in Russia. And that's why the rest of the world saying, OK, if that's going to be your game in Ukraine, if you want to weaken Russia, you want to weaken Putin, that's your agenda, that's not our agenda.

Our agenda is to create a better world of rules and predictability, and that's what the rest of the world will want to see, some kind of a fair idea of where are we going with all of these, you know, moves in Ukraine? What's the destination?

ZAKARIA: But, Kishore, it's Putin who doesn't want to negotiate and until the Russians feel that they are forced to the negotiating table, you're not going to get a peace deal. Zelenskyy has from day one offered to negotiate and has offered major concessions publicly, like Ukrainian neutrality and no NATO. It is Putin who is not doing it because it appears he wants greater control over Ukraine. What do you do then?

MAHBUBANI: Well, you know, I was a diplomat for 33 years, Fareed, as you know. And in diplomacy it's not what people say publicly that is their position, it's what they're prepared to negotiate privately. And as you know, our good friend Henry Kissinger suggested a formula in 2013 in this "Washington Post" article and I truly do believe that what Henry Kissinger proposed in 2014, of course it's got to be amended because we're in 2022, the basic outlines where Ukraine is free to choose its own destiny, free to join the European Union but join (INAUDIBLE) and exclusively and also work out some kind of compromise between the eastern and western sections of the country, go and ban Russia from the country, for example.

So there are ways and means of achieving a diplomatic settlement and that's the tragedy in Ukraine, because the outline of a settlement was given by Henry Kissinger eight years ago.

ZAKARIA: David Miliband, you know, again, it feels to me like Zelenskyy has proposed variations of what Kishore is talking about.

MILIBAND: I think you're right. Remember George Cannon said 50 or 60 years ago, Russia's tragedy is that it can only see Ukraine either as a vessel or an enemy. And what he said then is actually Russia's crime today because what they've done is invade and they bring state. And the challenge that you're laying down I think is absolutely right, the Ukrainians are not the aggressors here.

The unspeakable scenes that we're seeing in Mariupol that I fear are going to be repeated in other parts of the east of the country, whether it's more besiegement to come. What we have here is a classic scissors effect, where the greater and greater misery within Ukraine is going to find ripple effects around the world because remember the impact on food prices, the impact on energy prices, the impact on -- at a time of a global debt crisis that's looming for too many emerging economies. Those are forces that have been unleashed by this invasion.

But it's not an invasion that has been precipitated by any actions on the part of the Ukrainians. And that's why I come back down to this question, but the choice lies in Moscow. If it insists on seeing a vessel or enemy next door in Ukraine, it's a recipe for the kind of pulverization obliteration that's going on at the moment.

ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us, we're going to come back, we're going to talk more about Russia and Ukraine, but also about the French elections which are going on as we speak.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with David Miliband, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Kishore Mahbubani in Singapore.

Anne-Marie, the point David was making about the agency of the Ukrainian people, they have a voice, they have a vote. Well, now you have the Swedes and Finns saying they want to be part of NATO. Not for sure but they seem to be moving along that track. What should NATO do in that circumstance?

SLAUGHTER: NATO should take its time above all. There's a real opportunity here to think much more creatively about European security architectures and Western security architectures that do not simply expand NATO ever further to the Russian border, which honestly, it's not at all clear that NATO will accept, that the American people will accept, but more importantly you can have the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, with a guarantee, a security guarantee for Finland and Sweden, for really the Nords.

You can think about a security architecture that works but then allows, again, over the course of decades for a far more flexible set of European security architectures that eventually would include Russia. Russia is part of Europe, right? Russia is part of Europe. If you think about Western literature, music, art, math, all of that, that is the Russian people.

And we're not going to have security in this century, nor are we going to be able to work on the global problems that menace all of us unless we can at least imagine a security architecture that includes Russia. [10:30:01]

This moment of possibility expansion of NATO should be a trigger for rethinking, not for simply, mildly expanding.

ZAKARIA: Quick thought on that, and then I want to ask you, Macron seems like he's going to win in France but with a much lower margin than he did the last time, than Chirac did against Marine Le Pen's father. You know, how troubled are you by the rise of this far-right populism in France?

MILIBAND: So, look, if you're a Swede or a -- a Finn, you don't want creativity at the moment; you want security. Because you've seen what's happened to the neighbors. And I think that that is a really fundamental point, that if they qualify, then they should be admitted, because it's a security pact that will benefit from their commitment. And it's a defensive alliance, NATO, not an offensive alliance.

And whenever people talk about NATO, quote/unquote, "enlargement," I always remind them, these are countries opting to join in because of what they fear from the east.

On the French point, the significance of the election isn't just that Mrs. Le Pen doesn't win, if indeed that's the way came out. The Macron government has actually, on economic terms, been a successful government. But you're right to draw attention to this rising tide that's gone from 2 percent to 7 percent to 17 percent, now (inaudible) to 35 percent to 40 percent, on the far right.

My own view, though, is that President Macron is not going to be twiddling his thumbs for the next five years. He's going to be an activist president who sees the historic significance of this moment. I think he will bolster the German commitment that was made in February to rethink its international posture.

And I also think he'll understand that Europe has to think in different ways about its global engagement, not just China but the world, on a much wider scale. Africa is significantly important for him, Middle East, too. And I think that's very, very important and, I think, could herald some really innovative policymaking of the kind that -- that Anne-Marie has talked about.

ZAKARIA: Kishore, one of the big questions that a lot of people have is what is China's role here?

You know, China, 10 years ago, seemed like a country that wanted to be a kind of equal partner with the United States in co-managing the world. People talked about a G-2, wanted to be much bigger at the U.N. and all that kind of thing.

Right now, it feels in a much more defensive posture. It's strongly aligning itself with Russia, which really has become a kind of rogue state. Is this where China wants to be, the kind of -- in the alliance of Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela?

You know, those are the countries that have voted with Russia. What do you think -- how do you think China is looking at this?

MAHBUBANI: Well, there's no doubt that China has lost out as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In many ways, there's global instability; there's been Western solidarity. The global economy is going down. But at the same time, the fundamental directions of China haven't changed. Because China, at the end of the day, is still the biggest beneficiary of the 1945 rules-based order that the West gives to the world. China's the world's number one trading power.

And I want to emphasize a key point. East Asia, which has got the world's largest share of population, is at peace. The guns are silent. And the reason why the guns are silent is that, in this region, there's a series of pragmatic accommodations.

So on a somewhat metaphysical level, the west has got to stop seeing the world in black and white terms and see it in terms of shades of gray. And, believe me, China would be much happier if they integrated with the whole world and not just be seen just as an ally of Russia. Because they don't see that necessarily as a long-term asset.

So the game that is being played in East Asia is a complex one, where you have, like, a kaleidoscopic arrangement in this region. And that's what made Europe -- as Anne-Marie said, don't make it a black-and- white issue between NATO and Russia. Include Russia and include China.

ZAKARIA: Include Russia even with Putin waging this war, or wait it out?

MAHBUBANI: Well, I think, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself a simple question. Fareed, I completely agreed with you when you opened this program by saying that the U.S. must have an accommodation with Mohammed bin Salman. You're right. he's done terrible things. But in the same way, Putin has done terrible things, but is he going to go away?

And this is where -- this is the fundamental mistake. You know, when you saw Modi embracing Putin, that was a signal that India thinks that Putin is here to stay.


So we have to live with the world that we have, which is imperfect, which is difficult, which is hard to manage. But better to manage it than to try and stereotype it in black-and-white divisions.

ZAKARIA: On that philosophical note, Kishore Mahbubani, David Miliband, Anne-Marie Slaughter, thank you so much.

If you want to understand more about Putin and his government from a particular point of view, watch a new documentary premiering on CNN tonight. The Sundance Award-winning CNN film "Navalny" follows the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny through his political rise, attempted assassination, the investigation into his poisoning. "Navalny" airs tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

When we come back, from the crisis in Ukraine to a crisis around the globe, climate change on this Earth Day weekend. We will talk to a man with a big idea to bring clean energy to a billion people, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Friday was Earth Day, a reminder that amidst all the acute crises in the world today, the long-term climate crisis rages on. Earth's leaders made some progress at last's year COP26 Climate Conference, but the finger was pointed at India and China for watering down the final agreement.

It highlights the frustration felt by many climate activists. No matter how much they reduce carbon emissions in their own countries, India and China remain addicted to coal. Well, the Rockefeller Foundation leads a group of organizations that have a big idea. They aim to raise $100 billion in public and private funds to bring renewable power to some 1 billion people and avoid sending 4 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

I spoke to Raj Shah about this. He is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation and the former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Welcome, Raj.


ZAKARIA: So, first, let me put this in perspective. Would it be fair to say -- I mean, the Rockefeller Foundation is famous for igniting the green revolution around the world which created agricultural productivity, that allowed countries like India to feed itself and in fact become a food exporter. Is this on the scale of that kind of effort?

SHAH: This is absolutely on that scale. And this is perhaps a bigger challenge. You know, today, in order for us to defeat climate change, we have to approach this problem in a way that includes everybody. And nearly 3 billion people on this planet only consume less than 1,000 kilowatt hours per year of energy and electricity. That's one-twelfth of what a typical American would consume.

So they are going to consume more energy over time. And the question is, is it going to be more coal or is it going to be renewable electrification and new energy technologies that can protect our planet and help those important families and communities lift themselves up?

And we're advocating for the latter.

ZAKARIA: So, tell us, what is -- you know, with the green revolution there was all this new technology that was -- was used. What is the technology at the core of your bet?

What is it that makes you think you can provide that much energy, that much power, that much electricity to those many people?

SHAH: Well, the answer to that question is really renewable energy systems. We've seen over the last decade, as Rockefeller's been pioneering this work to reach lower-income communities with, say, solar mini-grids, we've seen the cost of power go down significantly. Photovoltaics have gone down 90 percent. Energy storage is down more than 80 percent. We're about to make a huge leap into lithium ion phosphate battery storage for stationary grids and small mini and micro-grids.

It's now cheaper to provide power this way than it is to provide it through either dirty diesel generators or coal connected to grids that try to reach into these communities and do so poorly. So I've walked through these...


SHAH: ... communities and seen...

ZAKARIA: In that case, why -- why is the market not doing it already? Why -- why do we need the Rockefeller Foundation?

SHAH: Well, most government utilities look at providing power to rural communities in particular as just a traditional loss-maker. You know, to them, it's you build a big coal plant near a city, connect it to a grid. The extra cost of connecting grid connections out to rural communities, to villages, to small towns and cities in those settings is -- is expensive. And then the power that they deliver on it is -- is erratic, and their systems are not very good for doing that.

These new systems are loaded with technology. In addition to photovoltaics and battery storage, they also use remote artificial intelligence based energy management systems. We have smart meters that allow a very poor household to pay for only what they consume and do so via their phone, and do it very efficiently so that these systems are -- are economically productive.

And, frankly, Fareed, because these work, we've partnered with Tata Power, which is now rolling out 10,000 of these systems in India. We'll get the cost down to under 15 cents a kilowatt hour, at which point it beats every alternative source of energy and will help 25 million people not just move out of poverty but do it on a green development path that's safe for our planet and for their local communities.

ZAKARIA: When will we see real results on this kind of scale you're describing?

Because, as you said, so far what you've done is impressive but small- scale. When -- when will we see millions and millions and millions of people on these grids?

SHAH: Well, you're absolutely right. First, I'd say we've already reached about a million customers, 550,000 in India alone.

[10:45:01] And what we see from those customers is not just that they pay their bills and they use power and electricity. We see that they move themselves up the economic ladder. They might buy an electronic sewing machine and start a small business, or they might be an agriculture producer who then uses a rice hulling machine to, you know, improve their economics of their own business and lift their families up.

That trend is taking off all over the world, and we believe that we will hit the targets we defined at the COP, of reaching a billion people within a decade, with renewable energy, so that they're no longer underserved and they're finally connected to the economic ladder of globalization and they can lift up themselves and their communities out of poverty.

ZAKARIA: Raj Shah, this is a terrific, ambitious project, and we wish you well. Thank you.

SHAH: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," it has come as no surprise that Western countries have condemned Russia's aggression and sent supplies to bolster Ukraines's resistance. But did you know that Russia's closest allies have been surprisingly wary of signing on to Vladimir Putin's war. Why? That story, after the break.



ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. For all of Putin's outlandish claims of wanting to de-nazify Ukraine, his real aims have been evident from the start, turning the country into a puppet state and restoring some of the lost glory of the Soviet empire.

But this war has shown how little Moscow has actually gotten from cultivating its own sphere of influence since the Soviet Union collapsed. After the Cold War, most of the former Communist states in Europe took a fiercely anti-Russian stance and joined NATO or the European Union.

Other countries in Central Asia, for example, stayed in Moscow's orbit. In 1992, they formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, Russia's counterpart to NATO. Current members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In 2014 all those nations except Tajikistan joined Putin's answer to the European Union, the Eurasian Economic Union.

These countries all trade heavily with Russia and host Russian bases or military facilities. In January, facing anti-government unrest, Kazakhstan's ruler called in CSTO troops. The mostly Russian forces helped restore order. In 2020 Armenia fought a bloody war with Azerbaijan. Russia brokered a truce and dispatched Russian soldiers to keep the peace.

Yet, despite these many connections during Russia's war in Ukraine, it has gotten almost nothing from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. None have contributed troops or supplies. According to NBC, Kazakhstan refused a Russian request for troops, though Kazakhstan denies a request was ever made.

Whatever the case, it's all a remarkable contrast to the immense help Ukraine has gotten from countries it has no formal alliance with. Even Kazakhstan has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Of course, these Central Asian countries are small and couldn't offer much material support to Russia anyway, but you would expect them to stand with Moscow in the court of international opinion. Instead, as The Economist points out, they have generally maintained neutrality. They've made carefully worded statements or stayed silent. None have recognized the breakaway republics in Donbas. They all abstained in the main U.N. votes condemning Russian aggression, though most of them did vote to keep Russia in the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Belarus is the one country that has given Russia major assistance. The two nations enjoy a special relationship, having agreed in 1999 to form a so-called union state. In 2020, when massive protests threatened to topple Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, Putin came to his rescue with financing and the promise of troops.

So, over the last few months, Lukashenko has let Russia use his territory as a staging ground for invading Ukraine. Belarus has also consistently voted with Russia in the U.N. But Belarus hasn't entirely acted as a Russian vassal. Like the Central Asian countries, it hasn't recognized the breakaway Donbas republics. More importantly, it has ruled out sending its own troops to Ukraine.

Think about how different all this is from the heyday of the Soviet Union. In Moscow's misadventure in Afghanistan, the Kremlin could mobilize materiel and manpower from across the Soviet republics. In quashing the Prague Spring of 1968, the Soviet Union received military support from Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary.

The real story here may be the divide between the rulers and the public in these pro-Moscow states. For example, the Belarusian dictator depends on the military to stay in power. Analysts believe, if Lukashenko sends his troops to die in Russia's war, he could lose the military's support and lose control of his country.


Why? Because only 3 percent of Belorussians want Belarus to actively participate in the war. Belarusian activists have repeatedly sabotaged their country's railway system, hobbling Russia's ability to move men and equipment.

This is the kind of ally Putin is likely to get, even if he prevails in Ukraine, a repressive government in Kyiv with little popular support and thus limited capacity to help Russia. Because, at the end of the day, even in dictatorships, the voice of the people matters.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.